International Savanna Fire Management Initiative

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Home » Thematic Areas » TK & Climate Change » International Savanna Fire Management Initiative

International Savanna Fire Management Initiative


The United Nations University's Traditional Knowledge Initiative is working with the Australian Government and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance to explore the transferability to developing countries of Australia's savanna fire management abatement methodology and project experience.

Indigenous peoples have historically employed customary burning practise to manage the savanna regions of tropical northern Australia. In many cases these practices have ceased, resulting in hot and uncontrolled wild fires late in the annual dry season. Experience in northern Australia shows that strategic reintroduction of traditional patchwork burning early in the dry season can limit the scale and intensity of late dry season fires, reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Innovative methodology and valuable co-benefits

Savanna fire management in tropical north Australia is an approved offset methodology under Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative. It allows Indigenous communities and farmers to generate carbon credits, which can then be sold to Australian companies to offset their emissions. Through this methodology, Indigenous communities are reducing emissions and generating sustainable incomes through the Australian carbon market.

Australia’s savanna fire management projects have also demonstrated valuable co-benefits – improving biodiversity; community health; food and water security; reinvigorating cultural and social traditions; enhancing human capital; and strengthening capacity to adapt to climate change.

International Savanna Fire Management Initiative

Preliminary studies have shown that the conditions necessary to establish projects of this kind are available in regions with similar savanna landscapes and traditional management practices, including sub-Saharan Africa and South America. In the initial stages of this initiative, we will explore the potential to export Australia’s methodology and project experience to interested developing countries. We will also identify potential pilot sites, in-country partners and implementation pathways. Knowledge will be transferred through local workshops, as well as multimedia and web-based resources.

Also see the Events section.

Case Study: West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project

The Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (WALFA) is Australia’s most developed savanna fire management mitigation project. WALFA has been achieving emissions reductions, development benefits, and sustained incomes for remote Indigenous communities through the sale of carbon credits since 2006.

Results from this project include:

  • Reduced emissions (700 Kt CO2-e over five years)
  • Employment opportunities for up to 200 Indigenous people in remote areas
  • Enhanced biodiversity
  • Improved health and wellbeing of remote Indigenous communities
  • Reinvigorated cultural ties to country and traditional knowledge transfer
  • Development of local expertise and opportunities to engage in other economic activities, including eco-tourism and feral animal control

Video: Fighting carbon with fire, Arnhem Land

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